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December 20, 2011

Don’t Argue with 911

"What's the nature of your emergency," the 911 operator asked.

"My wife is having a possible heart attack," I said.

"What's your location?"

"I'm on 89 North. Just passed mile marker 72. I'm going to Fletcher Allen. Fast." I was going eighty, ninety when there was room. It was dark but the road was dry.

"Sir, can I convince you to stop so I can get help to you."

"No. Sorry. I can get her there faster if I keep going. But if you can have an emergency vehicle meet me, I'll stop and transfer her."

"Sir, an ambulance has equipment to treat her. Do you have that in your car?"

"No. But it'll take too long to wait for an ambulance. I'm at mile marker 74."

"Sir, can you get off at the Richmond exit? It's in five miles."

"Can you get an ambulance there before I get there?"

"The ambulance will be there very quickly once I call it. Sir, it would be better if you got off."

"Call the ambulance and ask them how long it'll take them. Maybe they should meet me at Williston."    

"Sir, I can't call them until you tell me where you're getting off."

Mary was barely conscious. She didn't even tell me what to do which meant she was very sick indeed.

"I'll get off at Richmond. Call the ambulance."

"Can you go the park and ride at Richmond?"


The 911 operator stayed on the line. The Richmond fast squad arrived at the park and ride five minutes after we did. They stabilized her and got her to Fletcher Allen in better shape than I would have. Turned out she was having a severe reaction to a prescribed medicine and her heart is certified fine. Two days later she was being Mary again and going to emergencies as a Red Cross volunteer rather than being the emergency.

But don't be as dumb as me. The ambulance would've been in Richmond five minutes earlier if I hadn't wasted time arguing. Five minutes could've mattered more than I want to think. Good thing the 911 operator was patient and persuasive or I would've been even dumber.


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